New-look Aboriginal Children’s Memorial Garden unveiled

The Children’s Hospital at Westmead has unveiled its refurbished Aboriginal Children’s Memorial Garden. The new-look garden gives patients, families and staff a refreshed place to gather.

Relaunched on Close the Gap Day, the garden commemorates the children who were forcibly removed from their families and communities under the policies of past governments and represents a place of healing and reconciliation.

The garden was officially relaunched at a ceremony attended by SCHN Chief Executive Cathryn Cox, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation CEO, Nicola Stokes, Aboriginal Elders and communities, Aboriginal Health Unit staff and guests including patients and families from across Sydney and regional NSW. The ceremony included traditional dancing from Maad Mob Culture, a traditional smoking ceremony, as well as a prayer and poem reading, read in native language.

Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN) Chief Executive Cathryn Cox said the garden reminds us to never forget about the past and the important work still ahead.

“At Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, we all have a role to play in closing the gap to health care and ensuring that the health and wellbeing of First Nations People is prioritised and considered in everything we do.”

Rita Williams, Senior Aboriginal Health Education Officer, led the conceptualisation of the garden in 1995 and guided the project through to its opening in 2007.

“Bringing a child into any hospital can be a very stressful experience for any parent but it can also be a very confronting experience for many Aboriginal families because so many Aboriginal Children were forcibly removed from their mothers when they went into hospital.”

“This is something we don’t want to ever happen again in the future and this is the very reason why we have created this Garden.

The Aboriginal Children’s Memorial Garden is here to remember those children that have passed away and to remind us that we need to move forward in our reconciliation towards a better future and not just for Aboriginal children but all other children,” Rita said.

The makeover included the installation of a boulder from Dharruk and Gundungurra land in the Blue Mountains, one-of-a-kind Boomerang shaped benches, Australian native plants and herbs, a plaque acknowledging the Burramattagal people, the Traditional Custodians of the Dharruk Nation land on which the Hospital stands and a dedicated poem from Aunt Edna Watson, Elder of the Dharruk Nation. 

The garden also includes a formalised Apology from the Hospital for the part it played in the removal of Aboriginal children, which was installed at the original opening.

Proudly supported by Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation, Nicola Stokes said the Garden is a symbolic step forward.

“I was so moved by today. The refurbished Aboriginal Children’s Memorial Garden is a place created from respect, dignity and understanding, that symbolises what could and should be," Nicola said.

“Supporting the Aboriginal Health Unit to renew this garden as a place of healing and reconciliation is the first step of many for the Foundation. On National Close the Gap Day – working with the Aboriginal Health Unit and our supporters - the Foundation commits to do what’s needed for as long as it takes.”

Visitors to the Hospital are encouraged to visit and enjoy the Garden to both remember the children of the past and work towards our reconciliation for the future.